Geoscience community outlines cooperative activities

July 11, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- The American Geological Institute (AGI) recently convened the second annual Leadership Conference to discuss key issues affecting the future direction of the Earth sciences. Held in May at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, representatives from more than 20 geoscience professional and educational societies attended the two-day meeting. The theme of the conference, "Improved Effectiveness through Increased Cooperation," focused on ways to improve communication across the geosciences; increase the effectiveness of Earth science programs; reduce duplication of efforts; and enhance the public's awareness of the role the geosciences play in our society.

"The geosciences often have a significant impact on world events," stated M. Ray Thomasson, 2003 AGI President and President of Thomasson Partner Associates in Denver, CO, "and as leaders of the geoscience community, we must be prepared to meet the world's ever-changing technological, economic, and political challenges. One of the best ways to respond to these challenges is by inter-society cooperation."

Three major areas were identified for in-depth discussion during the forum: nurturing future geoscientists, supporting Federal geoscience funding, and increasing access to geoscience information. The Earth science profession faces a crucial challenge because the number of Earth science majors enrolled in university programs continues to decline. Forum participants addressed education-related issues such as certifying more Earth science teachers; strengthening undergraduate programs to incorporate emerging research topics and to improve teaching skills; and encouraging minority populations to consider careers in the Earth sciences. There was also strong support for outreach activities that offer opportunities to generate greater public interest and participation in the Earth sciences, including the production of videos and films; the initiation of a range of cooperative efforts with the National Park Service highlighting the spectacular geology in our Nation's National Parks; the development of high-quality geoscience books for children; and the expansion of Earth Science Week, which is celebrated annually during the second full week in October.

Closely tied to education is the need for sufficient funding of Federal geoscience programs. As a primary source of essential geological, hydrological, biological, and mapping data, as well as being a leading employer of geoscientists, it is vital for the Federal government to fund geoscience-related programs at levels that will enable the continuation of these important functions. Forum participants agreed to establish a coalition to encourage adequate Federal funding for Earth science programs with particular emphasis on geoscience programs at the U.S. Geological Survey and fossil energy research programs conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The forum's third major topic investigated cooperative opportunities for increasing access to a variety of geoscience information. Several initiatives were discussed, including GeoScience World, a joint effort to launch an electronic publishing project for geoscience journals and other publications; DataPages, the digitization of geological data sets for use in GIS applications; and Geoinformatics, the plan to integrate research data, analytic tools, and visual applications into a single, unified system for use by the research and education communities.

Based on the meeting discussions, forum participants generated a list of action items to pursue collaboratively in the coming months. More information about the AGI Leadership Forum 2003, including the program agenda and selected presentations, is posted on the AGI Events web page, http://www.agiweb.org/events/leadershipconf/index.html.
-end-
The American Geological Institute is a nonprofit federation of 41 scientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other Earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment. More information about AGI can be found at http://www.agiweb.org. The Institute also provides a public-outreach web site, http://www.earthscienceworld.org.

American Geosciences Institute

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